JUBA - A South Sudanese anti-corruption activist said he had been kidnapped and beaten for two days by unknown assailants angry at his campaign to expose officials suspected of stealing $4 billion of government funds.
Deng Athuai Mawiir, chairman of the South Sudan Civil Society Alliance, said he had been abducted outside his hotel in the capital Juba on July 4. His ordeal underscores the challenges facing South Sudan, which became the world's youngest nation when it seceded from Sudan last year after two decades of civil war.
Widespread corruption, rising food prices, dwindling government funds and fraught relations with Sudan plague the nation, and overshadowed celebrations marking its first birthday on July 9.
Mawiir told Reuters that the assailants had gagged him, put a bag over his head and taken him to an unknown location. They tied him to a chair and questioned him without giving him food or water, he said.
Mawiir, whose umbrella organisation includes local human rights groups, said his captors wanted to know who was sponsoring his campaign to publish a list of 75 officials suspected of stealing $4 billion of government funds.
"They slapped me and kicked me and said, 'After this you will talk'," Mawiir said, pointing to his face and stomach, where he said he had been struck.
In the days after his abduction, members of his group said they began to receive phone calls and text messages saying they might be killed if they continued to speak out against graft.
Activists say corruption has drained state resources and hindered badly-needed development in the war-battered country.